From Stitch to Shop – Understanding the Lifecycle of Products

From the very first stitch to an item going on final sale, we unwrap the lifecycle of a clothing product and how each step can have an impact on the environment if not followed correctly.

Whether it’s the cotton in your t-shirt, the padding in your jacket or the plastic used in your waterproof shell, each component that makes your favourite garment goes through a cycle. From sourcing the raw material to the different stages of the manufacturing process, each step can have an impact on the environment and the people involved. With the increased demand for low-cost clothing and ‘fast-fashion’, this impact can often be catastrophic.

Shopping responsibly is vital to combat this crisis, one way to do this is to buy from certified brands that show transparency and practice sustainable and ethical methods. Certain certifications demonstrate that the brand has taken responsibility for the product life cycle; recognising and supporting these brands is integral in protecting our planet and improving the conditions for farmers and workers. Some of the most common certifications included in a range of Blackleaf products are explored in more detail. 

Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)

Cotton is the most widespread, profitable non-food crop in the world. Thanks to its excellent natural properties like being soft, breathable and warm, it’s the perfect material for all kinds of apparel. Unfortunately, current cotton production methods are unsustainable and workers are regularly subject to poor conditions. Outdated practices like land clearing, soil erosion, water consumption and the use of harmful pesticides can cause disastrous effects to precious eco systems, predominantly in developing countries.

Aiming to change this is the BCI, the world’s leading sustainability initiative for cotton. To safeguard farmers, their communities and the environment, BCI certified companies must adhere to several guidelines when producing cotton. These include preserving the natural habitats around farms, protecting the crop and soil, using water efficiently and providing a better way of life for workers. 

BCI cotton is now grown in 25 countries and accounts for just under a quarter of global cotton production. Moreover, 2.4 million cotton farmers have now been trained in sustainable cotton practices. By purchasing BCI products you are directly supporting ethical and environmentally friendly cotton and in turn encouraging more brands to follow suit.

Responsible Down Standard (RDS)

The insulating properties and warmth-to-weight ratio of down is perfect for outdoor products like warm winter jackets and cosy sleeping bags. The sourcing of down and feathers for these products often includes unethical and inhumane treatment of ducks and geese, such as live plucking and force feeding. 

RDS was developed with input from farmers and animal welfare experts, as well as brands and retailers from around the globe, to ensure that down comes from animals that have not been subject to unnecessary harm or suffering. As well as driving better animal welfare practices, RDS also provides companies with transparency and lets customers understand what is in their products. Only products with 100% certified down and feathers may carry the RDS logo.

In 2019, more than 6000 farms across the world were RDS certified, covering an estimated 735 million birds. We stock a selection of brands that are committed to only using responsibly sourced down, including The North Face, Rab and Patagonia.

Bluesign Standard

The fashion industry is estimated to use around 1.5 trillion litres of water every year, roughly a third of all chemicals used worldwide goes into textile manufacturing and huge amounts of CO2 emissions come from clothing factories. This is clearly unsustainable and hugely damaging to our planet.

Bluesign is an independent verifier focused on limiting environmental impact in the textile industry as much as possible by tracing and examining the life cycle of materials and improving manufacturing practices. All bluesign approved textiles must follow strict principles to use resources efficiently, control pollution, protect employee health and ensure high quality; to bear the bluesign label products must contain at least 90% approved textiles. By purchasing bluesign approved products you are supporting companies that act responsibly and take care to minimise the impact on people and the environment.

We can all do our bit to support responsible life cycles by shopping more consciously and recognising manufactured more sustainably and that workers were treated fairly, it also puts pressure on other brands to reevaluate their practices. To move towards a more sustainable and ethical future it is crucial that we think twice about purchasing products purely based on low cost and instead consider how they are made and how their life cycles impact our planet. 

These are just some of the certifications included in products we sell. Other certifications to look out for include FairTrade, 1% For the Planet, Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), B Corporation, Cradle to Cradle, EU ecolabel, Higg Index, ISO 14001, EMAS – Responsible sourcing, TRUCOST, Osprey All Mighty Guarantee, Down Codex, ISO 26000 – Social Management, Okotex 1000 Step, Fair for Life, Fair wear, Cotton made in Africa, Ethical Trading Initiative – ETI, WRAP,  WFTO, BMP Certified Cotton, Blue Angel, Nordic Swan ecolabel, SA8000, IMO, Fair Labour Association, Asian Floor wage, Iron Clad Guarantee, Content Claim Standard (CCS) and The Microfibre 2030 Commitment Certifications. Buying from certified brands gives you the assurance that the product has been made with the planet in mind.

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